There’s a lot more to Illinois than the great city of Chicago. Along with this exciting urban hub there are many natural areas where locals and residents alike enjoy getting outside. With 141 parks it’s no wonder the DNR created the motto, “State Parks, Great Parks” in 2013. This phrase is the title of their initiative to continue improvements on local natural areas with upgraded campgrounds and additional staff to cater to the more than 44 million yearly visitors looking for hiking and camping in Illinois.
People from all over the state – and even outside the country – take the short 1.5-hour drive from Chicago to Starved Rock State Park, where they can hike 13 miles of trails offering elevation gains on wooded pathways along the Illinois River. The 18 canyons serve as great places to spot waterfalls after a rain and families love ending the day with s’mores around the bonfire at the nearby Starved Rock State Park campsites.
Those looking to learn about the state’s heritage while camping in Illinois may head farther south to Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park & Memorial. This 162-acre park is 12 miles southwest of Decatur near Harristown, IL, and features the land where Abraham Lincoln first resided in the state. If you visit be sure to check out the memorials commemorating this important president.
People who want to mountain bike in this Midwestern state will enjoy heading to Palos Park, a forest preserve known for its excellent biking, hiking and equestrian trails that cover over 50 miles of terrain. When it comes to camping in Illinois, this locale offers beautiful facilities at Camp Bullfrog Lake where you can put up a tent next to a lake and hike short or long loops that end up back at your campsite.
If you want to check out the beautiful Lake Michigan drive to Illinois Beach State Park to spend time in the water along the 6.5 miles of sandy shoreline. The park is 4,160 acres offering ample opportunities for hiking, watersports, picnicking, fishing and camping. With The Dyrt, you can be sure to find the best camping in Illinois during your stay in the Prairie State.
It’s a nice get away from the city. I haven’t stayed at any of the backpacking sites, but the main campground. It is located under a bunch of tall pines, and feels fairly open. You’re close to others, and there isn’t a lot of privacy, but it is pretty. There are a lot of trails, but keep in mind a number of them will have you walking in sandy paths (hence the name). You can even spot some cacti out there, which is a site when you’re in the Midwest. There is also a verse camp, which I have walked through. It has a large pavilion, and all the sites have 0 shade. It’s about 3 hours from Chicago, so I like to hit it up for a quick get-away to avoid paying Wisconsin prices. I have never seen it packed.
Giant City is otherwise wonderful. A site wasn't hard to get in June, the campground is quiet and beautifully green with decent space between sites, the hiking trails are A+, and kid-friendly as long as you don't let them climb too high. The kids were able to ride bikes through the campground. Raccoons were numerous and fearless, and kept approaching us at the playground, around the fire at night and kept our friends who were camping with us up all night. We slept through. You can buy firewood at the stable, and I was pleasantly surprised it was properly seasoned and dry. We run into bad firewood often when buying at state parks. Overall Giant City is great and we will return.
Lincoln Trails State Park is located near Marshall, Il just across the Indiana border. It is a quiet little area (at least when we visited) and made for a relaxing visit.
Two campground areas, Lakeside was closed (possibly due to season/standing water) showerhouses are closed November 1st through May 1. Otherwise there is full hookup available at Plainview and the sites are nice and flat. There is a nice fire ring to gather at in the campground and some room around your site for stuff. I like the outer sites, more privacy. Not that that was an issue in November. The on site restaurant was closed when we visited but sits right on the water. Would make for some nice views. We hiked, the trails were sometimes challenging to follow with the leaves on the ground . With no foliage there was a lot more to see of the topography and natural features. Nearby is the town of Marshall which offers some interesting history, artwork and painted lions, definitely worth a walkabout!
It was March, it was cold at night, but this ADA cabin had heat & electric, 5 beds with mattresses, beds with mattresses (2 pr bunks beds in the second room). Cement sidewalks from parking area to toilets & cabins, each with a waterfront view, fire pit & picnic table. From our cabin we walked grassy paths to a lovely bridge. Around the pond's perimeter are dispersed sites for tent-camping or possibly day-use. It was a challenge to find the park entrance, at night, and the closest small town is about 10-miles away. The very reasonable cost was transacted online.
This camp site does not have very secluded spots. I would have enjoyed a more quiet plot of land amongst some pine trees.
We did not get out to see much of the park. Would like to come back and experience the actual beauty of the park not just the family campground.
We did our first (family of 5) camping trip at Thomas Woods. We were at site 4 which is electric hookup and it was a huge area! The kids had so much space to run around and explore. They loved the well pump. We explored the campground both tent and rv. Both areas were well spaced out with enough privacy. There was another 3 groups there but didn’t noticed everyone was quiet. We also went on walks within the conservation, the trails were very easy and was a nice walk. We will definitely be going back to Thomas Woods
This COE campground is conveniently located and just a quick off ramp from the Interstate. I stayed here one night as I headed south from Chicago. The one night only ultimately turned out to be a blessing. It seemed that I inadvertently booked a site in the middle of a family reunion. I don’t mind a good party, but when you leave your dog tethered to visit at other campsites and your dog is barking for hours, well, that’s not okay.
I was in site 30, located directly on the water in the Nighthawk campground. Site 29 is very close and the picnic bench is literally 8 feet away from the back of the pad of site 30. The class A rig in the video belonged to my neighbor, so you can see how close the sites were. Don’t expect much in the way of privacy. Otherwise, the site is shaded and fairly level with a nice lake view and direct access.
Unfortunately, I didn’t awake to sounds of nature. Early in the morning the sawing and woodchipping began. To make matters worse it was windy. All the woodchopping and sawdust was flying in the air which required us to close windows and hunker down inside until the park crew finished their work. I understand that maintaining the park is important, but why on a busy camping weekend?
The restrooms were a short walk across the road and up the slope from site 30. I didn’t use the facilities, so can’t speak to their functionality or cleanliness. I like to camp at lakes because I enjoy kayaking and this lake would allow for all kinds of water activities which is a plus.
Also, if you haven’t made a reservation and decide to do a walk up make sure you have cash. A couple was turned away and told to get cash because they don’t take credit cards or checks.
I might stay here again as a layover spot because of its convenient location to the interstate, but it wouldn’t be a destination for me.
This park has a fair amount of trees throughout which gives a greater sense of privacy than most state parks. As usual, the facilities were well maintained and the park was clean. The beach was great for morning walks but that draw makes it seem that this park is probably packed in the summer. Location of hiking trails from campsite isn't super clear but head south for the longest trails. If it's been raining a lot I'd be wary as many of the sites were completely underwater when we went. It's a great place to take your dog with you! (Beware if they have long hair though, the pine trees meant I had to cut sap out of my dog's hair in several places.)
Turtle is great. She runs the campground and loves kids.
Campground is on the lake. Has a beach for swimming and you can rent all the fun items like paddle boards, kayaks, and boats.
Some of the sites are a bit close together, would have liked a bit more space but it worked out very well.
Good place to fish.
Shower had hot water!! 😋
This is a very small campground. Parts were closed because of flooding so maybe your experience will be better. There were half a dozen sites available this weekend. Each site has direct water access for an easy fishing experience. A boat launch and day use parking area were seeing activity too. Vault toilets are at the end on the camp host side.
Other than fishing or watching the water flow by, there wasn’t much else here. The drive in is through active farmland. You could walk along the gravel roads. Another option is to visit Loud Thunder forest for hiking. They also have boat rentals.
A local church held a communal breakfast on Labor Day so check out the small local towns while you’re here.
Registering for any site means stopping at the main ranger office. We waited while a line of people rented pontoon boats, canoes and kayaks. We found site 6 in Silva Campground to be nicely set apart.
Silva is wooded and has more seclusion than the other camps. River campground has campers right in a line with no shade around them. Silva was good for us.
Some sites are close together- perfect for a small group. Others are open and along the road. 6 was carved out of the woods- we felt immersed in the forest. One set of 4 vault toilets serves this campground. Water can be found in a couple locations. Our site had full sun during the day so our screen tent saved the day.
A variety of hiking trails are here. Some are used by bikes and horses too. Rock Island is a short drive away and we hiked on Sylvan Island there. Many people are here for fishing.
We didn’t like the large family gathering at the site across from us. They disappeared as soon as the rain came but there was a lot of activity going on. Some of the picnic areas would be perfect for these moments but they didn't move to them. We still enjoyed our stay.
Squeezed between the slough and the road, a campground awaits. Close enough so that one side of your campsite is against the road. The sites were not mowed super recently so the greenery was about 6” tall in spots. Evidence of recent rain was found in the small ruts in the one roadway. There are no trails or even a sidewalk by the road.
This campground isn’t that enticing but it’s nice to know that there are options if everything else is full. On Labor Day weekend there weren’t any campers - this was enough to send us further down the road. Loud Thunder is just down the road and might be a preferable place.
We did see people parking in the day use lot and launching their boats for a morning of fishing.
This campground is in a populated area but the nature preserve is big. We rarely saw traffic once here. A train goes by a couple times but it was always during the day.
It’s pricey if you are from out of the county. We were hoping to camp at the primitive sites but they are walk-in only. Our teardrop wasn’t allowed. We settled at site 37 and enjoyed our stay. There are vault toilets but the large number of big RVs meant they were not used often leaving them almost like our private restrooms. Each site has water and electric. Trees are around the outside with few on the inside sites. All the sites have paved pads.
The highlight of our experience is the hiking. There are miles of trails. On one hike we were on paved, sifted gravel, grass and single trek trails. There are a lot of loops giving you options. When we left we still hadn’t hiked all of them.
If the price was more reasonable we would certainly be back. If you need the water/electric then this is a great choice.
My family and I stayed here just passing through and we checked in with the very friendly staff… The campground itself was not the greatest, but okay for just one night passing through! It’s location was great for us, traveling west, being about 45 min. out of St. Louis, MO. The site was pretty muddy, but they had been experiencing lots of rain. Wouldn’t recommend for a vacation, but for one night, passing through, it will be more than suitable!
Most of the sites are large and a good distance from the next one. Shower house is alright. The store/restaurant has been closed for a year or two now because of the Illinois budget. There's a dollar store in Farina and a grocery store in Kinmundy; both towns are less than 10 miles away. The lake is big enough for ski boats but nice for kayaks also. Swim beach is not well maintained due to the budget but also doesn't cost anything since they can't pay anyone to man the gate, but it's not horrible.
Very nice people. Kind. Clean site with excellent WIFI. Park was full and we were streaming video. Had only three interruptions for buffering but they were short. Even though they have cable, some sites will be snowy. They do not know why. It seems to be rig specific. They should list this on the web site but they do not. It is listed when you check in. We will be back.
Never really wanted to go somewhere called "The Last Resort". Just seems like they didn't want to be your first choice. But now its called "The Kampground", and it's under new ownership. The new owner has really done a fantastic job of restoring this property which was formerly a church kids camp. The bathrooms were really clean, property well maintain, staff was extremely nice and hospitable, and the area is really quiet with neighbors far enough away that any noise we made went unheard. Thanks for everything Steve!
Giving this 4 stars for the awesomeness of the sites themselves. We were in 121. All of the sites we saw in our “loop” were super wide, all gravel and quite level. So well kept…..fire pit with grate, large picnic table….really, the site couldn’t have been better. Beautiful views of the lake! Just all-in-all a well maintained park. So, why not 5 stars? I really wanted good shore fishing and not only was it a long walk, but really not very good/easy to get to, or comfortable standing once you get there. Beautiful dog parks….one for large dogs and one for small, but again, a long walk from the campground. Not feasible for our older dog. One other thing, absolutely no lighting at night along the campground roadways. After dark, we watched a truck go into the ditch looking for the turn out (granted, the occupants sounded like they were well into partying), but the pitch darkness at night made it feel a little unsafe, especially walking the dog after dark. Still, the sites themselves are awesome.
Let’s start with the good. The outhouses were clean and it was pretty cheap. Ok,on to all of the not so great. The trails were VERY unkept and there was poison ivy at nearly every step, the entry map shows a beach- there might have been 5 years ago but now absolutely nothing that even resembled a place to swim. If I hadn’t been tricked into thinking it was a decent campground, I might not have been as disappointed but we were looking for a specific type of camping experience and this place failed to meet even the lowest of expectations.
The sites are gravel and some are extremely unlevel. Electric hookups. Pit toilets but the shower house was nice and clean. The trails in this CCC era park are marvelous. We also loved the Lodge for dinner and climbing the water tower. We will definitely be staying here again.
This is our favorite campground in Central/southern illinois. The sites are very nice and most have shade. There is a beach for campers to use, and a really nice playground. Their bathrooms and showerhouse were impeccably clean, and many sites are right next to the lake.
Overall this is a VERY nice campground. There is a camp store, firewood available, and even a pool! The trails around are nice and our family had fun hiking. HOWEVER: Unless you have a restroom in your rig, be prepared to walk up to the showerhouse. The pit toilets that were spread across the campground were in horrendous condition and had wasps, spiders, and other critters hanging out. With 4 kids in tow and a pop-up camper, we made the long treck to the shower house many times in one weekend. If we'd had a heads up, we would have stayed somewhere with more accessible restrooms.
Oh and lots of deer bed down in the grassy areas at night, which was a fun thing to see!
Electric only, no water or sewer hookups. Pit toilets. Nice and clean. People kept cutting through our campsite on their way to the playground, which is whatever, but some people are bothered by that kind of thing. Very laid back place overall.